NEW YORK — Elie Tahari has about 30 days to file a response to a $12 million sexual harassment lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court last week.

Marcy Castelgrande, a former staffer at Tahari’s fashion company, filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court, Southern District New York. Castelgrande worked for the company from March 2006 until her job at Tahari was terminated on Dec. 2, 2011.

The suit claims that on that day, Tahari “unlawfully and inappropriately touched Castelgrande in the area of her private parts while she was modeling a skirt before a public crowd of at least 10 people that included male and female coworkers, professional colleagues and supervisors.”

In the lawsuit, she alleged that she filed a sexual harassment complaint with the company’s human resources department immediately after the alleged incident happened and she was fired two hours later.

Castelgrande’s attorney Jonathan Sack said Monday that the delay from the time of the alleged event until the filing of the lawsuit was due to a delay involving the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission. “We filed with the EEOC right away to preserve her right to sue. The EEOC has to conduct its own investigation. We received the green light from the EEOC to go ahead with the lawsuit two months ago,” Sack said.

Reached by phone Friday, Tahari said he didn’t know “what she was talking about,” and deferred further comment to a company spokesman.

Scott Currie, vice president of global communications at Elie Tahari, said, “Elie Tahari Ltd. and Elie Tahari both deny the allegations contained in the judicial complaint filed by Marcy Castelgrande and are prepared to vigorously defend this matter. Since this is a pending legal matter, we do not have any further comment at this time.”